Efficiency is the Key to Survival for Small and Medium Sized Businesses

Posted April 1, 2013

Warehouse operations can benefit from technology to reduce waste and maximize efficiency. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) with handheld bar code scanners and mobile computers with wireless communications are the tools of a modern warehouse

As a business grows, its warehouse and inventory needs increase. Often, the tools originally put in place to manage them do not. Inefficiencies from legacy systems usually go undetected and add hidden operating costs to a business. This is particularly important for Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMB).  SMB’s have a smaller margin for error in managing their operational costs and need to make the most of every resource.

Warehouse operations can benefit from technology to reduce waste and maximize efficiency.  Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) with handheld bar code scanners and mobile computers with wireless communications are the tools of a modern warehouse.  This is true regardless of the size of the business. Today there are WMS systems to fit any sized enterprise – from an out of the box system for small to medium businesses, to a custom deployed system developed by a staff of programmers and IT professionals.  There are also cloud based systems that use the internet eliminating the need to purchase additional servers and software.

Regardless of the size, the basic ideas behind a WMS are simple:

  • Know what is in the warehouse at all times in order to build products and fulfill orders.
  • Keep inventory matched to demand.
  • Eliminate mistakes in ordering raw materials or supplies that are not needed.
  • Provide outstanding customer service by knowing what products can be delivered and when.

With a WMS, each item ordered, each stock location, and each order processed has a bar code that makes it easy to track and execute.  Old spreadsheets or clipboards with lists disappear, replaced by dedicated systems and handheld technology.  Most seasoned warehouse managers are familiar with these modern warehouse systems.

SMB owners and operators may not initially need all the features of a WMS system, but they do need to have a strong grasp of their inventories and have the ability to track orders and shipments.  Inventories can tie up large amounts of capital, and waste in the warehouse can cripple an SMB.

It is not difficult to see how a warehouse can generate waste.  If raw materials are exhausted or stored in the wrong location, a domino effect of waste results.  First, those materials are lost so their value is lost.  Next, when those lost components are needed, time is wasted by the person looking for them and the production team needing those parts must wait to complete their build.  Purchasing personnel must place a new order for the parts.  All this adds up to extra costs in parts, shipping, time, and frustration.  One simple error can cascade into a costly waste of time and money.  Repeating these errors can have a disastrous affect to an SMB.  Clearly knowing what a business has in inventory – raw materials, work in process, and finished goods is extremely important.

Industry studies have shown that the use of warehouse automation tools can increase efficiency of workers by over 25%. For the large enterprise these savings are soft dollar efficiency increases. For the SMB these savings can be significantly higher.  Workers in SMB operations regularly multitask.  Reducing the amount of time a multitasking employee spends managing inventory leaves more time for higher valued work.  This is where the power of automation pays off for the SMB.

Many SMB’s use business management software such as QuickBooks. These types of software products have features that can be used to manage inventory.  Moreover, they have interfaces for mobile computers and handheld scanners that eliminate manual data entry.  Choosing the right device for use in a warehouse or manufacturing environment is very important.  The warehouse and manufacturing floor is an environment where ruggedness pays off.

SMB’s looking to save money may try using handheld scanners designed for retail applications. This would be a mistake.  Retail products are not designed to withstand the punishment that manufacturing and warehouse applications impart. An industrial grade scanner will yield years of reliability with a fast ROI.  The Datalogic PowerScan is the leader in industrial handheld scanners. The new PowerScan PD9500 imager has great features like:

  • Omnidirectional reading capability includes 1D/2D applications
  • Wide depth-of-field comparable to standard laser scanners
  • High Density and Long Range features available in the same imager
  • Robustness and high environmental sealing (IP65)
  • Datalogic’s 3GL (Three Green Lights) technology and loud beeper for good-read feedback

For SMB’s the implementation handheld technology for inventory and manufacturing process management is an investment in the company’s future. Strategic management of resources with the proper rugged tools will help assure the growth and survival of the business.

For help updating your warehouse operations, contact us at Barcodes Inc.

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